Click photo to enlarge
Mary Jane Garcia
LAS CRUCES — The secretary of state this week imposed a $1,200 fine on Democratic state Sen. Mary Jane Garcia of Doña Ana, after finding a dozen possible violations of campaign reporting law.

The notice, dated Tuesday, indicated that Secretary of State Dianna Duran had looked at allegations brought up by a treasurer for Garcia's Republican challenger, Lee Cotter.

Cotter and Garcia are vying for the District 36 Senate seat in the Nov. 6 election.

Garcia said Wednesday evening that she hadn't yet seen the notice, but she would comply with Duran's decision, as she had previously stated.

"Whatever determination she came up with, I will correct," Garcia said. "I don't want it to distract from my campaign."

Duran found 12 instances in which expenditures from Garcia's campaign funds were 'reported as 'Cash' payments to yourself," according to the notice. The payments were made between Jan. 1, 2010, and Oct. 1, 2012.

A state law prohibits campaign disbursements - except for those from a petty cash fund of $100 or less - from being made out to "cash," according to Duran's office.

Garcia previously has defended the expenditures, saying the use of campaign funds for travel expenses to attend legislative meetings is allowed. She included receipts from hotels, restaurants and gas stations. Garcia said that campaign funds were never transferred to her personal account and weren't used for personal gain and that her practice is to use cash for travel expenses.

Garcia has 10 days to "correct the matter" and - under penalty of perjury - offer more explanation about the circumstances before a final determination is made, according to a letter sent to Garcia.

Cotter, reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, also said he'd yet to see Duran's report, but, "in general, for a legislator, she's obviously been in there so long she's kind of hardened against doing the right thing."

"I think we should expect our elected officials to be ethical and above reproach," he said.

In addition, Duran noted a second previously cited concern: that Garcia both received per-diem reimbursements from the state and withdrew campaign funds for travel expenses, for the same trips.

Cotter's treasurer, Bryan B. Stegall, lodged a complaint with Duran's office with the allegations.

3:27 P.M. REPORT

SANTA FE — The Secretary of State's Office has fined state Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana, $1,200 for violations of campaign finance law.

In a letter to Garcia dated Tuesday, the Secretary of State said that from Jan. 1 2010, to Oct. 1, 2012, there were 12 instances where campaign expenses were reported as "cash" payments to herself for expenses incurred attending legislative sessions and committee meetings. Garcia also received travel and per-diem reimbursements paid by Legislative Council Services for the same meetings, the finding from the Secretary of State said.

In addition to the $1,200 fine, Garcia was given 10 days from Tuesday to "correct the matter and to provide a written explanation, under penalty of perjury, stating any reason why the violation occurred." The fine could be waived, fully or partially, if a timely explanation is filed and shows good cause to waive the fine.

The finding comes in response to a complaint filed by Bryan B. Stegall, the treasurer for the campaign of Lee Cotter, who is opposing Garcia in the current District 36 Senate race.